"It's more interesting to sell an idea. Like the idea of an artist.”

Director and screenwriter Lucy Luscombe is on the rise. With a host of successful shorts under her belt, with one film making it into the UKVMA's Best Alternative Video shortlist, Lucy discusses her methods, inspirations and future projects. 

Text by Chloe Casper
Photography provided by Lucy Luscombe

Approx reading time: 6 mins

“I think it's a big wake up call. This was the opportunity for Middle England to have their say,” reflected Lucy Luscombe, a London-based filmmaker on the rise. We sat down with Lucy the day after the UK's EU Referendum to discuss politics, the arts, and youth.

A Central St Martin's alumni, Lucy first began her exploration of the arts after a brief dabble in acting. “I was in this very strange acting group where no one was a real careerist,” she says. “We were all just interested in the craft and this very romantic idea of Stanislavsky. But the industry stuff that laid outside that room wasn't very interesting.”

Instead, Lucy decided to try her hand at scriptwriting. “I wanted to be a playwright. I remember sending a really bad script to The Royal Court and they called it ‘derivative’. My friend was in a band and I wanted to do a music video. I ended up, come-hell-or-high-water, trying to get this music video made.”

Candy Girl, a music video about “the disappointment in that weird transition between childhood and adolescence”, leans more into the realm of short film. The music acts as the soundtrack and fades away into the background of the film's narrative. A bold choice that was well received, and prompted production companies to reach out to Lucy.

Now with a host of successful shorts under her belt, such as a music video for John Grant's song GMF, which made it onto the UKVMA's Best Alternative Video shortlist, Lucy still doesn't let the typical constraints of a music video limit her work.

“I tend to swerve performance videos because they don't excite me. They're more about selling a product. It's more interesting to sell an idea. Like the idea of an artist,” Lucy explains. “An artist's identity is more than what they look like or how they perform. They go through the same shit of trying to pay the bills and trying to put ideas out into the world. You've got to respect their journey.”

One of her more recent films, The Days Burn Blue, was filmed in Huddersfield and featured local kids going about their lives in an area of England hit by the full force of austerity.

“I don't think these kids had opportunities to meet people who could advise them on how to make it in the arts,” she recalls. “Think about how many little geniuses are slipping through the net because there's no one to unlock that within them.”

Lucy is all too aware that the arts are usually the first to go under the knife when it comes to funding cuts, and the impact our age of austerity is having on the youth motivates her.

“It's really difficult in this doom-and-gloom, anxiety ridden age to prioritise the importance of inspiring young people to get into the arts. Whether it's painting or being a musician, I think you need the confidence and courage to believe you have a voice, even at an amateur level” she says. “But I think we live in this era where kids are told that their voice isn't important, that it's not part of the debate. And I think the future of the British film industry, the arts, are going to suffer for that”.

According to Lucy, young people already hold the most important key to good filmmaking: they have stories we want to hear.

“Old people always want to patronise teenagers to settle some kind of insecurity. But what young people forget is secretly old people are fascinated by them.”

As Lucy points out, in spite of the pessimism one might feel towards pursuing the arts in this day and age, it's not hard for kids these days to go out and film their stories on their iPhones. The crucial thing, she says, is letting young people know that they shouldn't let their feeling of disempowerment stop them.

“People will convince you that you're not ready to do things, but it's bullshit. We drum it into kids that they have to wait and pay their dues before they have a voice, but their voice is more fascinating than they believe or are told.”

As is inevitable for any British filmmaker who chooses to deal with topical social issues, it's hard not to see the influence of Ken Loach in Lucy's work.

“Ken Loach was fearless in constantly challenging the establishment,” she says with admiration. “We're obsessed in this country with the notion of the benefits scrounger, and [Loach] has just done this film, I, Daniel Blake where he's actually built a life out of a statistic. That's exactly the direction that I think I'm headed into.” 

Lucy’s main interest, she says, lies in the human experience. “I'm interested in people, I'm interested in their lives. Politics will always come into that. Also I think it's a form of me trying to process the world around me and to understand it a bit more.”

However, while Lucy believes that most of her films will inherently be political, it's important to do so in a way that doesn't alienate or disengage an audience, “It would be super pompous of me to judge anyone who wanted to switch off and watch The Kardashians if they've had a shitty day. That's as much of a valid experience as creating something that is challenging.”

After so much success in short films, Lucy does have plans for bigger things. “A feature film is defiantly in the pipeline” she mentions, but that's not the only area she's eyeing up.

“TV is a really interesting medium. I love reaching a big audience and TV can offer that. My fascination lies in general with the idea of an audience loving characters and the development of characters. I think that's a beautiful thing.”

In these tumultuous times it will certainly be exciting to see how directors like Lucy Luscombe process and film the impact of politics on the world around them. Lucy too, seems excited about what sort of art is to come, “When I'm excited about other filmmakers, it's when they're presenting something that's honest and from a different perspective,” she says.

“They're not trying to please people, they're not trying to get good press. They're just trying to make something. They make you want to make something that excites them.”

And, Lucy says, it's the young people today, slowly learning how to express themselves, that we should be watching out for. “It seems like a scary time to be a young person, but they seem super engaged in politics and what's happening. I feel like they've found a voice.”

Text by Chloe Casper
Photography provided by Lucy Luscombe